Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Being an Expert Is Time-Sensitive

Example of Old\New on a studebaker
Remember when you hung out your very own "expert" shingle? Oh, there's no doubt that you deserved it. You knew as much -- if not more -- on the subject than anyone around you. And when the topic of your expertise came up, people immediately thought of you.

You received payment for the work you did for clients. And you did amazing things for clients. They referred other clients to you, and your expertise was further recognized and validated. You made ends meet and created a successful -- if not profitable -- business venture. Well done.

Or maybe you took a job with a company. They hired you as The Expert or An Expert, and you worked diligently on projects and ideas for your clients. Those clients loved the work you did for them, and your company received great referral business, solidifying you and them as true experts in the field. The company made money, you drew a steady paycheck, and life was good.

But that was last year, when you were the expert.

While you were busy being an expert, your expertise expired.

Unless your expertise is in something like Great Opera Singers of the 12th Century -- and maybe not even then -- the game is changing constantly. The milieu isn't today what it was 12 months ago. And if you're in an emerging or highly volatile field, that could be 12 weeks.

While you were busying being an expert, your skills lapsed. While you were busy being an expert, the platform moved. While you were busy being an expert, outside changes impacted your field. You didn't notice. And now you're an expert at outdated concepts.

Stay fresh.

If you're spending 100% of your time on billable work, you have no time to keep abreast of the changes in your field. If the company you work for has you cranking out paying work 40+ hours a week, then they are letting your expertise lapse, and you're becoming a limited time offer.

Cut back on the work and make time for what many professional organizations call continuing education. Attend and speak at conferences. Read publications. Try new things. Connect with other experts in your field. Connect with experts in related fields. Become part of the community.

If that means you have to raise your billable hourly rate to make up for the lost income -- do it. If that means you have to demand your employer reduce your doing-work to give you room for learning-work -- do it.

The consequences of not doing it? You cease to become the expert, and your value effectively drops to zero. And who wants to put "I used to be an expert" on a resume?

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3 comments:

  1. Here, here! Good post! I was definitely an expert 8 years ago in a lot of things with computers (desktop, servers, LAN/WAN, etc.) I realize today I might as well be a novice.

    But my value isn't zero!!!! It's just in different areas. :) Have a great day, Evo!

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  2. It sounds like you made a shift of your are of expertise. An excellent plan to retain relevance!

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  3. Evo, this is a great blog post. You are spot-on with this one. It can be a big challenge to continue learning new things while trying to run your business. It is so important. Thank you for posting it.

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